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SDSU Prof Receives $1.6 Million Grant

Wayne Beach received the grant for health communication research.
Wayne Beach expands his research on health communication.
Wayne Beach expands his research on health communication.

The National Cancer Institute awarded Wayne Beach of the School of Communication a $1.6 million grant to expand his research on how cancer patients and their families communicate about cancer.

The project, led by Beach, is entitled Conversations about Cancer. It began with Beach analyzing transcripts of 61 donated phone conversations between a cancer patient and her family members.

The work resulted in his book,"A Natural History of Family Cancer: Interactional Resources for Managing Illness," which has been honored by the National Communication Association.

The book was then adapted into "The Cancer Play." It combines research and the arts to permit meaningful dialogue about the complex and often misunderstood communication challenges arising from cancer diagnosis, treatment and prognosis.

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Beach's research in how cancer patients and their families communicate about the disease is one of many ways SDSU faculty are leading innovation and discovery, a key initiative of The Campaign for SDSU. With a unique focus on the teacher-scholar model, SDSU attracts researchers interested in solving the world’s most pressing problems, while showing students how to provide future solutions. Learn more about how SDSU leads innovation and discovery, and how you can help.

Next steps

With the $1.6 million grant, Beach will now begin Phase II of the project in late spring. It will include refining the play script, creating a professionally edited DVD of the play and assessing its impact on audiences.

Future goals of the project include:

  • Innovative educational programs for cancer centers
  • Medical groups and health professionals
  • University and community play productions
  • A documentary film

This project is unique in that researchers previously never had access to actual family conversations about cancer, from diagnosis through the death of a loved one, Beach said. The project provides valuable insights into how a real family navigates their way through changing life circumstances.

The project is innovative in that it breaks new ground as a theatrical genre that relies on naturally occurring conversations, Beach said, allowing audiences to experience normally inaccessible communication events.

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